Reviewed by Elaine Lamkin
Written by Jeani Rector
Published by Turner Maxwell Books
I need to admit right off that, as a rule, I am not a huge fan of short stories. Of course, there have been exceptions: all of Stephen King’s collections, Dan Simmons longer stories in LoveDeath, Robert McCammon’s Blue World. But I cannot immediately think of any other compilations that blew me away. Around a Dark Corner by American Jeani Rector isn’t going to change my mind. Her nine short stories and one novella, collected in a VERY badly bound paperback from a British publisher (shame on them), have moments that disturbed me but, more often than not, stories that, while interesting, were nothing special.
One thing I did notice and applaud about Rector’s writing was the amount of research she did in preparation. Sure, some people might find the graphic descriptions of dismembering a body (“The Dead Man”), the effect the Plague has on the human body (“A Medieval Tale of Plague”), how someone in a plane that is going down feels (“Flight 529”, which is based on a true story) or maggots (“Maggots”) disturbing or repugnant, but then maybe they shouldn’t be reading horror. Rector also delves into Jewish folklore for “The Golem”, one of the better stories, as well as police work in “Lady Cop”. And “Horrorscope” (clever title) with its psychopathic narrator and Rector’s interesting take on the werewolf genre in “In Any Language” also gave me hope.
But then there are stories like “The Spirit of Death” where you can see what’s coming from the first page. And “A Medieval Tale of Plague”, while noteworthy with its historical detail, also has some jarringly out of place “lingo” from the main character, Elissa. I doubt folks in the 14th Century said “Hi” or “I figured you did…” Little things like that can ruin a story for me.
Probably my favorite of all of her stories is the unfortunately titled “A Teenage Ghost Story”. I was dreading something along the lines of the Twilight series, but this tale has a truly creepy mien to it. And it’s set at Halloween. With an old, unused cemetery too. I’m a complete sucker for Halloween stories, whether about the holiday or merely set on the day. In this novella a young girl, Cat, while crossing an old cemetery after her boyfriend’s car runs out of gas, meets a young priest mourning at a grave. She later dreams of this priest, and in her dream she is given a mystery to solve about the person in the grave. With her friend Tara assisting, Cat sets out to solve this puzzle, which dates back almost 70 years. For me “A Teenage Ghost Story” was worth wading through some of the other stories to get to.
I’m not sure where Jeani Rector’s career will take her, but she does write well and her eye for research and detail are welcome, which contributed to my above average rating for this assortment. If you want to read more about Rector and her other works, be sure to check out her official Around a Dark Corner website as well as another book in which one of her stories appears, Sinister Landscapes (review).
3 1/2 out of 5
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